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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rev. Michael Orsi of Ave Maria School of Law on Principles of Catholic Identity for Law Schools

Rev. Michael P. Orsi, Chaplain and Research Fellow of Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law has written an article for the most recent issue of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly (available here). Motivated in part by the trend of weakening Catholic identity among law schools in the country that were originally founded as Catholic, he presents principles on which a law school should be based to sustain its Catholic identity. At the core of the blueprint he gives for such a law school is that in "maintaining equilibrium" it must find a balance between "the natural and the supernatural." The four principles he gives are:

1) Teachings on supernatural revelation should be made available to the students. He mentions specifically that material from Church documents (he names Veritas Splendor, Evangelium Vitae, and Fides et Ratio in particular) should be incorporated into the coursework.

2) At least 90% of the faculty should be practicing Catholics.

3) The chaplain should work closely with the dean and play a strong role in ensuring that the Catholic identity of the school is sustained and respected.

4) 3 out of 4 students should be Catholic.

Rev. Orsi also lists a few threats against which a Catholic law school must defend itself. He mentions specifically that there is the danger of a law school being too heavily influenced by political movements among students, but we must remember that Catholicism is not a "political theory or a political party." Libertarianism, he notes, is gaining popularity among conservative law students, but "administrators must be vigilant that their school is not taken over by such an ideology."

Another danger he discusses is the threat of "uber-Catholicism," stating that the school must not "allow the ultra-orthodox to gain hegemony."

He goes on to state that the school should not extend permission or funding to student groups with principles that oppose Catholic teaching. He gives the example of a Democratic club that was allowed only under the stipulation that support for abortion be excluded from the club's constitution.

Rev. Orsi has presented a bold vision for law schools in the U.S. seeking to maintain their Catholic identity. These will surely be positive forces in preparing the next generation of Catholic lawyers for the growing threats to the common good in our nation. Let us hope that more schools take on such a vision built upon the principle that "in the end, a Catholic law school has the obligation to help its students become saints."

1 comments:

Eric M. said...

This is an interesting article. It is certainly important for Catholic schools to maintain their Catholic identity amid the growing trend of secularization in academia. These principles laid out by Rev. Orsi seem to be well reasoned. When reading your summary of the article I thought it interesting that Ave Maria School of Law, according to the information currently provided to prospective students, does not meet principle 4 (3 out of 4 students should be Catholic). When I looked at the full article, though, I saw that he acknowledges this.

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